TAMPA, Fla. -- Junior guard Russ Smith racked up a game-high 15 points as No. 12 Louisville pulled away in the second half for a 59-41 victory over the University of South Florida at the Sun Dome.
The Cardinals (21-5, 9-4 Big East), which have won five of their last six games, once again relied on their pressure defense, forcing 16 USF turnovers.
It was the eighth straight loss for the Bulls (10-15, 1-12), who have made a surprising fall to last place in the Big East following their NCAA Tournament run a year ago.
USF managed to stay in the game, within six points in the second half, despite shooting just 24 percent. Jawanza Poland was the only Bull in double-figures, coming off the bench for 11 points.
USF had a three-point lead early on, but Louisville responded with a 17-3 run midway through the first half, holding the Bulls to one basket in a 7-minute stretch. The Cardinals peppered USF with a foul court press and traps, forcing 10 first-half turnovers and leading to several easy baskets in transition.
Louisville once again got a big boost off the bench from sophomore Wayne Blackshear, who had 10 points in the first half.
USF junior Victor Rudd, coming off a 26-point performance against Providence, had a rough game with seven points and six turnovers. But Rudd hit a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer, capping off the Bulls 10-2 run and bringing them within eight at the break.
Rudd continued the Bulls' comeback, soaring for a highlight-reel tip-dunk 7 minutes into the second half. Guard Anthony Collins made two free throws to cut Louisville's lead to six points.
But after Rudd's dunk, the Bulls were held without a field goal the next 5 minutes as Louisville padded its lead back to double digits.
Blackshear led the way, stealing a pass near USF's 3-point line and taking it all the way in for a dunk. Blackshear added another slam a minute later, putting the Cardinals back up 44-31 midway through.
Notes: It was the seventh game this season USF scored less than 50 points. ... Louisville, one of the nation's leaders in steals, racked up 10 against USF. ... The Cardinals improved to 27-4 all-time against the Bulls, including 11-2 in Tampa. ... Forward Kore White quietly had a strong game for the Bulls with nine rebounds.